Illicit Methylphenidate Use in an Undergraduate Student Sample: Prevalence and Risk Factors

Christian J. Teter, Pharm.D., Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D., Carol J. Boyd, Ph.D., Sally K. Guthrie, Pharm.D.

Disclosures

Pharmacotherapy. 2003;23(5) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Study Objectives: To assess the prevalence of illicit methylphenidate use among undergraduate college students at a large university, and to identify alcohol and other drug use behaviors, as well as the negative consequences and risk factors, associated with illicit methylphenidate use.
Design: Internet survey.
Setting: Large public university.
Subjects: Thirty-five hundred randomly selected undergraduate students.
Measurements and Main Results: Of the 2250 students who completed the survey, 3% reported past-year illicit methylphenidate use. Illicit methylphenidate users were significantly more likely to use alcohol and drugs and report adverse alcohol- and drug-related consequences than prescription stimulant users or students who did not use stimulants. Undergraduate men and women were equally likely to report past-year illicit methylphenidate use. Weekly party behavior was significantly associated with past-year illicit methylphenidate use.
Conclusion: Illicit use of prescription-only stimulants on college campuses is a potentially serious public health issue. More work is needed to promote understanding and awareness of this problem among clinicians and researchers.

The misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs among traditional-age undergraduate students remains a major public health problem for American colleges and universities.[1,2,3,4] College students who misuse alcohol and other drugs experience significantly higher rates of negative consequences than students who do not use these substances.[5,6,7,8]

Recent years have brought increasing evidence that college students are abusing not only alcohol but also prescription drugs.[2] Indeed, this abuse appears to coincide with the increasing number of prescriptions that have been written for psychostimulants.[9] Methylphenidate (Ritalin; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp, East Hanover, NJ) and other psychostimulants, such as D-amphetamine, are the preferred pharmacotherapy for treating attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although methylphenidate is highly effective for the treatment of ADHD,[10] it has potential for abuse and diversion.[11] The licit and illicit use of methylphenidate has increased dramatically over the past 10 years,[9,12] but research on patterns and consequences of its use has been limited in the college population. We sought to assess the prevalence of illicit methylphenidate use among undergraduate students at a large public university. Other goals of this study were to identify alcohol and drug use behaviors, as well as the negative consequences and risk factors, associated with illicit methylphenidate use.

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